Animators mentor students in learning, career

Posted March 28, 2010 9:48 a.m. EDT

Project Education: Edutopia, a partnership between WRAL-TV and the George Lucas Educational Foundation, shows how students are starting careers in animation with the help of some of the country's top professionals.

An innovative program called ACME Animation brings students and animators together in teleconferences twice a month. The animators offer students feedback on their projects.

Teacher Dave Master said he was inspired to found the program in 1996 after realizing that the evolution of new technologies could transform the teaching of animation.

"We came into schools that didn't have computer technology, and if they did have it, they didn't want to use it for the arts," Master said. "The arts have been considered a frill, even though arts and entertainment is the second largest export of the United States right now."

ACME has also adapted its mentoring to the Internet. Students can upload their animations to the program's Web site and get virtual feedback.

Students said the program is helping them better learn other subjects, as well as polish their professional skills.

"I'm privileged to actually have someone that's working with Walt Disney and other companies like Warner Bros.," a student at G.W. Carver High School in Birmingham, Ala., said during a teleconference. "And it's actually helping me in my science classes with all the bone structures."

The ACME Animation program has grown to more than 8,500 students. Last year, 96 percent of the students were graduated from high school, and 92 percent went onto college.

"We have made it possible that a professional can spend a few minutes a week to actually mentor a kid, somewhere in a distant city, who had the same dream they did and has no opportunity without that mentorship," Master said. "That's the magic of this new technology."